Survey: U.S. Consumer Spend on Streaming Services Dips from Summer

Streaming Spending is Declining
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

The average amount of money U.S. consumers spend on streaming services at the height of the pandemic has dipped coming out of the summer months.

Pollsters YouGov, collaborating with VIP on the monthly YouGov/VIP Streaming Survey, found October’s streaming spend at $39.60 per person, down -7.8% from the average level of $42.97 achieved from May through August.

One hypothesis for the decline in spend is the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As detailed in this VIP commentary, at the start of September there remained 12.6 million long-term unemployed Americans, with the federal stimulus expiring some months before. It would appear entirely plausible that some of those impacted would look to cut costs, including some streaming services, while keeping at least one in order to have some entertainment options.

Another hypothesis is the ongoing impact of the pandemic-inspired production drought that hit most TV and streaming services in 2020. With most services seeing fewer originals, some may be happy to trim the fat for SVODs with few new things to watch.

VIP drilled deeper into the data, looking at differences by demographic groups to see if any were behind the decline. The results showed that Millennials, while still spending more on streaming video than other groups (which, as the group most likely to be cord cutters, is a good reflection of general data trends), saw their October spending of $48.56 decline by -17.5% (-$10.32) versus the May-August average of $58.88.

Gen Xers were the group with the second-greatest decline in average monthly streaming spend, falling by -$3.80 (-8.6%) to $40.20 versus the average of $44. Of note is the fact that Baby Boomers bucked the trend, with a 14.2% ($3.81) increase in spend versus the May-through-August average of $28.81. Given this group will be less impacted by the ongoing economic turmoil in the U.S. due to Boomers becoming increasingly retired, this group would have the means to subscribe to more services.

In a different data highlight from the YouGov/VIP poll’s October wave, 1,289 respondents age 18+ were asked to select up to three streaming services they considered to be “must-have.” Netflix was by far the most popular choice, with 49%, followed by YouTube (26%), Hulu (25%), Prime Video (23%) and Disney+ (14%). This corroborates findings from VIP’s Guide to the Viewniverse study and is further evidence of the dominance of Netflix in particular in the consumer mindset.